________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 6 . . . .November 12, 2004


A Second is a Hiccup: A Child's Book of Time.

Hazel Hutchins. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton.
Markham, ON: North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada, 2004.
32 pp., cloth, $19.99.
ISBN 0-439-97400-3.

Subject Headings:
Children-Juvenile poetry.
Time-Juvenile poetry.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 3-8.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**** /4



A second
Is a hiccup-
The time it takes
To kiss your mom
Or jump a rope
Or turn around


There are some books that children love to read, over and over and over. A Second is a Hiccup will join the ranks of most cherished poems. Both for its text and its illustrations, this book will stand the test of time no pun intended.

     The world of the child is a world of observing, questioning and comparing. Time is an abstract concept that needs patient, repeated explanation. Comparison is a way to make an insistent child understand how long it will take until a special day comes. Hazel Hutchins relates time to the concrete things in a young child's life in pleasant, fluid rhyming verse. As she writes about longer frames of time, the verses get longer because, of course, there is so much more that can happen in a week than an hour. The language is familiar, but she plays with it gently to make it more engaging ("a sprinkly shower"). Hutchins's choice of words gives the reader the opportunity to visualize the action; she inserts natural pauses that add surprise and humour to the content:

Learn to count clean up to ten
Learn to count back down again
Watch the moon grow round and fat
Then thin again, imagine that!
And all of it in one month flat.

     The comparisons to things in a childhood life are not simplistic; rather, they provoke thought, and judgment:

Close your eyes and do not peek
Still, you'd never
Ever ever
Stay asleep for one whole week

     Her verses flow easily from one page to the next and are interpreted in an innovative, modern, if whimsical, style through the illustrations. The pen and watercolour illustrations by Kady MacDonald Denton express the joy of childhood playing, watching, participating, and growing. Childhood is a time of optimism, and that optimism is reflected in the quiet smiles on all the characters as they go about all their activities, ordinary and special. Children and adults alike will want to study these softly coloured paintings, looking for the extraordinary detail that lies under seemingly random lines and careless washes.

     Of course, the most wonderful memory children have of their early years is the bond of love which makes the passage of time feel as if it were only a moment.

     Hutchins is the author of more than 30 books for children, including Nicholas at the Library and The Best of Arlie Zack. Denton has won numerous awards for her illustrative work, including the Governor General's Award for A Child's Treasury of Nursery Rhymes and the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Medal for Til All the Stars Have Fallen. The author and illustrator demonstrate that individually they understand the mind of the child. Together, they have created the right mix to woo a child to learn and to cuddle close as he or she drifts securely off to sleep.

     A Second is a Hiccup will be a favorite with children throughout their early years. Adults who read to children will also love to read it, over and over and over.

Highly Recommended.

Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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